BEAUTIFUL BOY (2018)
Starring Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Timothy Hutton, LisaGay Hamilton, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Stefanie Scott, Julian Works, Kue Lawrence, Jack Dylan Grazer, Ricky Low, Marypat Farrell, Amy Forsyth, Mandeiya Flory, Jeff Adler, Edward Fletcher, Sasha Jackson and Justin Earle.
Screenplay by Luke Davies and Felix Van Groeningen.
Directed by Felix Van Groeningen.
Distributed by Amazon Studios. 112 minutes. Rated R.
Drug addiction is a very timely and important topic. Sometimes it takes a hard story – particularly a “based on a true story” story – to help drive home the need to open the dialogue and continue the discussion. Beautiful Boy does just this.
I had the opportunity to watch Beautiful Boy with a friend who happens to be well versed on these issues – she’s a social worker. She eloquently summed up her thoughts on this film with its ability to show the parallel struggle for both the addict, 18-year-old Nic and his family, particularly dad, David.
In real life, David Sheff is a writer and author of the memoir, Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. Son, Nic, is also an author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction.
We’ve all seen movies with rich teens experimenting or casually partying with drugs. However, usually an addict is portrayed as a junkie, someone who is apologized for and brushed aside. In Beautiful Boy, we are shown a young man, well loved by his family, with all of their hopes and dreams and expectations, who quickly and quietly falls into addiction. Not just with the anticipated marijuana (father and son even shared a joint on screen for a moment of bonding) but with a laundry list of other drugs, including methamphetamine.
This was not an easy film to watch. There are some standout performances, though, that make Beautiful Boy worth the effort.
Timothee Chalamet is captivating to watch as Nic. The film does a good job of bonding you to this kid. He is cute as the apple of his father’s eye. He is central to his dad and step mom’s wedding. He is a loving big brother to his new half-siblings. He is creative and athletic and privileged. He is a boy that you want to succeed in life.
Yet, time and time again, his addiction leads him down the path to destruction – in spite of rehab, in spite of family, in spite of himself. Chalamet allows you to see the internal struggle, particularly when it nearly looks like he is going to get it together. But, that is what addiction is. As the film so aptly points out, meth addiction has a single digit recovery rate. Beautiful Boy, through Chalamet’s performance, helps us to see why.
Maura Tierney plays Nic’s stepmom, Karen. She works hard to not overstep her boundaries as a step parent but continues to engage due to her love and commitment to Nic, until his behaviors start to brutally affect her husband and younger children. There is a scene nearing the end where her performance brought me to tears.
I was not enamored with Steve Carell’s performance as David, but that may be due to the timeline of the film. Other friends who have seen Beautiful Boy were impressed with his work and have encouraged me to give his performance a second chance.
The film begins in an interview, at a later period in Nic’s addiction, and then flashes back to earlier. I think that this interview, timed as it was, turned me off to the David character right at the start and set more of a PSA contrived tone for me than it should have. Again, from other friends, I may be alone in this sentiment.
I also may be alone in the sentiment that John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy” should have been retired from films after Mr. Holland’s Opus. I spent a good portion of the movie waiting for the song to be played so I could get past my irritation.
Overall, I think it is one of Hollywood’s better attempts at shedding some light on the struggle of addiction outside of the junkie stereotype. It is an important conversation that is only just beginning as it affects us all.
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 26, 2018.